Coaches Go Shoeless For a Worthy Cause

For one game last season IUPUI Coach Ron Hunter manned the sidelines barefoot in an effort to collect shoes for impoverished children worldwide.

A year later hundreds of NCAA coaches across the nation will join Hunter and go shoeless.

Samaritan’s Feet, a nonprofit organization devoted to collecting shoes for the needy, is responsible for the event. The Charlotte, N.C., based group contacted Hunter last season to ask him to go barefoot for one game in order to raise awareness for their cause. Hunter responded emphatically; by tip-off of Hunter’s barefoot game, he had raised 140,000 pairs of shoes, exceeding the group’s goal by 100,000 and earning Hunter ABC News “Person of the Year.”

This season more than 300 coaches will join Hunter and hold one game barefoot around Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Notable Division I coaches participating in the cause include Butler’s Brad Stevens, South Dakota State’s Scott Nagy, University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Matt Brown, Indiana State’s Kevin McKenna and Detroit Mercy’s Ray McCallum.

Hunter really took this mission to heart after visiting Peru last summer to help deliver some of the shoes. For the IUPUI coach, his continued participation in the effort was a no-brainer.

“When I left Peru, I knew that I had to continue to do this,” Melloh said. “The tears on the kid’s faces that I saw that we couldn’t help were enough to say that I will do this for the rest of my lifetime.”

eyer’s Long, Strange Trip to Coaching Immortality

With his usual composed demeanor prior to Saturday’s game, Northern State Coach Don Meyer showed no indication that he was on the brink of history.

Although Meyer treated Saturday’s game against the University of Mary the same way as he treated any other game during his 37 year career, this was certainly not just another game. With Northern State’s 82-62 victory on Saturday Meyer earned his 903rd career win, passing Bob Knight for the most victories in NCAA basketball history, accumulated over 37 years at Hamline University, Lipscomb University and now Northern State University.

This season however was certainly unlike any other, as unlike any of his previous 36 seasons, Meyer has coached this one from a wheelchair. Meyer was involved in a horrific automobile accident this past September, an accident that cost him a large part of his left leg. In the aftermath of the crash, Meyer discovered that he also has cancer.

After being hospitalized for 55 days, Meyer returned to coaching, entering the season 11 wins shy of Bob Knight’s record 902 wins. Meyer however, has never been concerned with the record. In fact, the only time he even acknowledged the approaching milestone, he did so in a negative fashion. “Screw records,” said Meyer to his players after a sloppy win. “We need to get better.”

There will be a celebration in recognition of Meyer’s accomplishment this Saturday in Aberdeen, S.D., where Division II Northern State is located. Meyer’s daughters and many former players are expected to be in attendance.

eyer’s coaching philosophy and outlook on life are one in the same. “You take it one day at a time,” Meyer said. “And if you lose sight of that, then you’re in trouble.”

Vols Help Raise Money for Cancer Research

Too often in college basketball, we hear about corrupt coaches who don’t seem to care about the integrity of the game and about players who don’t seem to understand their identities as “student-athletes.” Money – and lots of it – has been cemented into the foundation of collegiate athletics and we hear all about the problems that causes, too.

And yet, stories like this one remind us that college sports can still bring out the best in people. Last year, then-Tennessee point guard Chris Lofton played while undergoing cancer treatment throughout the season, and forward Tyler Smith’s father passed away after a battle with lung cancer. Brooks Savage, the team’s graduate manager, saw the profound impact cancer was having on those around him and decided to make a difference.

He came up with the “Outlive” program and presented it to the school’s director of basketball operations, Ken Johnson. He proposed that the school sell Outlive t-shirts in the Knoxville area, with the vast majority of the profits supporting cancer programs and screenings. Thanks in part to Tennessee Head Coach Bruce Pearl, that idea has come to fruition. The school is selling Outlive t-shirts for $15 – with more than 65 percent of the proceeds going to the University of Tennessee Medical Center for cancer prevention programs.

On January 31, Tennessee will host Florida in a nationally televised game, and Pearl has already encouraged Volunteer fans to wear their Outlive shirts to create a “whiteout” effect.

“We want to encourage our Tennessee fans to really step up like they always have,” Pearl said. “I think we can make a great statement on Jan. 31 to the nation and do an awful lot of good here at home with the awareness that this thing is going to create.”

These days, when commercialization and the power of money make us wonder why sports matter to us, the Outlive program serves as a refreshing reminder.

Clemente Proves Sports are a Family Business

Relatives of former sports icons have an uncanny ability of finding their way into the national spotlight. The uber-example is the triumvirate of quarterbacks in the Manning family. There is Billy Flutie, Doug’s nephew, who has followed in his uncle’s footsteps as a Boston College quarterback, though with less success than his iconic relative. Patrick Ewing, Jr., nearly made the New York Knicks this year. Yankee legend Yogi Berra’s son Dale dabbled in professional baseball. There’s Ken Griffey, Sr., and Ken Griffey, Jr., Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds – the list goes on and on.

And then there’s Denis Clemente, a first year junior point guard at Kansas State after sitting out last year as a transfer from Miami. The other half of this relative-athlete duo is, of course, former Pittsburgh Pirate right fielder Roberto Clemente – a baseball legend who died tragically in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 and the cousin of Denis’ father. He possessed considerable baseball talent growing up in Puerto Rico, but Denis always dreamed of becoming a professional basketball player – a dream that was nearly derailed by immaturity. In his two years at Miami, Clemente was suspended twice and finally thrown off the team. That experience, he says, helped him to regain a focus on where his life was going. In his second chance at Kansas State, he has flourished, averaging just over 12 points per game while leading the Wildcats to an 11-4 record. So come March, when spring training is in full swing and baseball players are running the bases – something at which Roberto Clemente excelled – Denis Clemente will be running the baseline.

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